City High

City High Biography

City High is not another ordinary hip-hop/R&B group-rather an explosion of diversely influenced cultures, genders and music influences that pulsates youthful hip-ness. City High is comprised of Robby Pardlo (20), Claudette Ortiz (18), and Ryan Toby (20), all hailing from the New Jersey-Pennsylvania border city of Willingboro (NJ). With a pedigree that includes acting, production, rapping, and songwriting-this trio delivers an eclectic powerhouse performance in their debut album, City High on Booga Basement/Interscope Records, that combines fresh beats, tight rhymes and "can-u-top" this vocal harmonies. Proving that real vocalists still have room to thrive in contemporary urban music. Originally planned to be a two-man group with Pardlo and Toby, Claudette was asked to join the group after Wyclef and Wonder realized that the Product G&B already fit that niche. "Clef, Jerry and our management thought that by adding a girl to the group it would make us even more distinct," says Ryan. "And since they had already signed the Product G&B we agreed. Bringing Claudette in just made it all come together, all bases were covered."

"Our music is something totally different-all our songs have depth and contain provocative lyrics with messages that relate to real issues. We talk about issues that occur in everyday life, and as you listen to the music you'll notice how we are able to express a message on every track with out preaching" explains Robby. "When City High comes out, it will carve another niche." And you would expect nothing less of a group that's down with one of the record industry's most cutting edge writing and production duos, the tandem of Wyclef Jean and his cousin Jerry Wonder. The first act off of Wonder's Booga Basement record label-a joint venture with Interscope Records, it is evident that City High is reminiscent of another Wyclef-affiliated two man and girl group that went on to super-stardom. In City High, that formula again resonates with thunderous intensity.

The first single is the stirring tale of a hard-knock life living woman who feels compelled to sell her body. "What Would You Do" ("If your son was at home crying all alone, on the bedroom floor cause he's hungry, and the only way to feed him is to sleep with a man for a little bit of money"). The quality of this song is so visually charged for its gripping depiction of a woman seeking to find a way out of a bad situation that one can see why certain people have been making analogies to the TLC mega-hit, "Waterfalls. City High's stimulating musical highlights also include the Clark Kent produced, Wyclef featured "15 Will Get You 20". Over the heart palpating bass and pounding drums, the group tells of the dangers of lusting for underage hotties.

Meanwhile, their remake of "Song For You," is a moving tribute to one of Robby's musical inspirations, Donnie Hathaway, which showcases the breathless range of Robby's tenor. Robby the first member signed to Booga Basement, is the "soul-quarian" of the group. A real musician-producer, writer, vocal arranger, and pianist, Robby's keyboard dexterity can be felt throughout the album. Reversing the flow and waxing prophetic, City High then breath life into the tired "battle-of-the-sexes"-theme songs on the body thumping mid tempo "Cats and Dogs," where they show that they can hold their own on the rhyming tip as well as singing, kicking syncopated, machine-gun fast, bounce flows. But rhyming is nothing new to the group. On a slamming up-tempo "Do The Right Thing", Refugee All Stars Product G&B (Santana's "Maria Maria" vocalists) get some shine on a track that has hit written all over it.

In the movie Sister Act II, a young male vocalist overcomes his shyness to belt out a top-of-range note that left viewers and record companies in awe. Fast forward 8 years later and Ryan Toby, now a grown man, songwriter, rapper, producer (his credits include Will Smith's tropical fantasy smash hit "Miami"), and musical impresario, exudes a calm confidence. Toby, who rhymes as well as he sings, evidences this unique ability on the track "Nothing Stays The Same", the theme song for the kid who fears for his safety while going to school.

Seeing how music's newest sex symbol, Claudette, radiates its very difficult to believe her as she talks about her adolescent wonder years. "I use to be a geek," claims the Puerto-Rican bombshell. "I've grown a lot since then," explains the 18 year-old with a luminous smile. And she has.

Aside from her striking beauty, listening to Claudette's sensuous, velour-smooth voice on the dance floor magnet, "Caramel". Or hearing her sassy lyrics, "I'm not the bitch/ Baby payback is/ And what you did came back to you," from the heartstring-tugging "Best Friends", and one will find her revelation even harder to accept. But it is her deep sonorous tones in the ode to a drug-dealing boyfriend, "The Only One I Trust" that allows one to understand the full depth of her emotional interpretation in song.

The album's final cut, "City High Anthem," underscores the entire theme of this coming-of-age opus and conveys the angst of today's youth that have been prejudged, misunderstood, and rejected by society. The track also explains the science behind the group's moniker. City High is the voice of all the young people looked upon as outcasts, the voice off all the people that feel like they don't fit in and are always judged.

"We're trying to say to the world not to shy away from us because we sag our pants, wear bandanas, or talk with slang," says Robby, who like his singing partners graduated from New Jersey's Willingboro High School. "[Plus] No matter what city you're from, our music is what gets you high."

"Also, everyone can relate to that one bad ass high school, where the knuckleheads wild out in class," interjects Ryan. "But all the kids ain't bad, some of them got talent. We're those [talented] kids."

As for the pressure that stems from being a new label's leadoff act, Claudette says. "We don't get nervous. We have good people behind us."

In fact, Jean and Wonder were so confident in the groups' abilities, they gave them significant creative control of the project, which allowed the trio to write and co-produce the majority of the album. "They helped us some, but they let us do our thing," explains Ryan about the album which was recorded primarily at the group's Track House Studio in their hometown. "That was the cool thing about working with 'Clef, he's an artist and he knows how important it is to have artistic freedom."

With a dynamic stage show in the pocket and their undeniable talent, City High is poised to become a formidable force in contemporary hip-hop/R&B music. And when coupled with Ryan's superstar appeal, Claudette's sassiness, and Robby's boyishly good looks, City High is comfortably positioned to deliver a knockout punch on their stupendous debut.

Now that you're ready for the next phase in hip-hop/R&B, turn down the lights, pop in the CD, and let your ears inhale the City High.

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